A little SAHM math equation

You may be shocked to hear this, but sometimes I feel like a loser for being a stay-at-home-mom. (I’m sure you’re not shocked.) Somedays I have greasy hair and wear my pjs until lunch and feel like I’ve got to get a grip quick. Sometimes I think about the working world with an idealistic longing for adult conversation and a feeling of accomplishment and an opportunity to wear smart suit jackets and these shoes (don’t you love using “smart” as a clothing descriptor?). Sometimes, I hear a mean voice in my head saying that my husband pays for everything and I sit around in my pjs eating sick-looking valentine cupcakes that taste really awesome.

I have a super smart friend here in Austin named Meghan. She’s new in town as well. She’s an attorney and she’s new at her firm and  has been expected to work obscene amounts of hours. She has a two-year-old. We were talking about our completely different daily experiences with motherhood: how she’s balancing her demanding working life with her mothering life; how I’m learning to be grateful instead of guilty for my life at home. Meghan used to stay home with her son during his first year. She struggled with the same sense of  guilt: Was she really contributing to her family? What was her value?

She had a friend who spelled it out to her like this:

If you were to hire someone to provide the same level of care for your child, a nanny who worked 10 hours a day playing, cleaning, getting him down for a nap, feeding, teaching, reading to him…what do you think that would cost you? You do have a job.  

I’ve been thinking about that myself. If I were to hire someone to care for my two children with the level of care and dedication and commitment I have, for a ten hours a day, seven days a week, I could be shelling out $50,000 a year. Then add taxes.

That’s $3,000 a month.

I may not be bringing any cashy cash into the home, but I’m starting to think of myself as someone who provides. I’m not just a greasy haired jammie wearer arranging playdates. I’m a provider.

Of course I believe my work is important. There’s a reason I chose to stay home and there’s a reason I continue to. But, just in case you stay home and you’re like me and have days where it feels like your life at home is something that smarter women laugh about far away behind their executive desks, while wearing “smart” suit jackets, I hope you’ll sit down and do some math and determine how much money you would have paid someone else to do your job today.

Sometimes, those of us SAHMs need to think of our time at home as a real job. A real job allows breaks and rest and conversations at the water cooler. A real job has a stopping point. If you feel like you don’t get a chance to take a breath. If you don’t feel like you have someone after those ten hours of work to share the burden with you. Why don’t you pull out the calculator, friend?

Stay-at-home-mom, I’m not saying you should become crazy about your invisible salary. I’m just saying you should give yourself some grace and, if you have a working husband, so should he.

Working mom, I’m talking to you, too. You should give yourself some grace as well. You work hard and then you come home and work hard. If I had my way, you’d arrive home to sparkly bathrooms and already prepared healthy meals every evening. But, I hope you remember, you’re being asked to work two jobs. Give yourself a break if it’s all a bit hairy these days.

And now I’ll just link to these shoes one more time, because, come on.


Filed under Motherhood

18 responses to “A little SAHM math equation

  1. I think that all kinds of moms need more grace. It was hard as a new mom going back to work to hear people saying things that indicated that they felt sorry for me. And I know SAHM get similar insensitive comments. I wish people would think before they speak.

    It has been a rough week for this working mom, so . . . thanks. I haven’t found a lot of supportive resources because, I guess, other working moms are like me: too tired to create any. hehe. But that definitely increases the feeling that I am doing this alone.

    • Kari, thanks so much for sharing. I’ve been feeling convicted lately that I focus so much on Stay-at-home life and haven’t been giving enough time and encouragement to you working moms who, you’re right, need plenty of grace for yourselves as well. Part of the problem is that I’m generally writing from my own experiences and the SAHM stuff shows up. But I want you to know I’m sorry. I also have a small idea of what it’s like to work (I worked part-time August’s first year) and I know how much I struggled with only 20 hours a week. I want this place to speak to where you’re at as well.

      You are doing good work, friend. Sorry it’s been a rough week. Grace, grace, grace.

  2. Angie

    As a SAHM I needed to hear that. Big time 🙂

  3. mrsdh

    Great post for SAHMs! I sent to it a few of my friends like that down in Texas. I will say SAHMs, consider yourself blessed that you get to be the biggest influence on your children’s lives. The cost of living up here in D.C. has a majority of my friends being working moms who so deeply desire to be at home with their kiddos. Many federal government agencies help pay for child day care so it almost makes it more economical not to be a SAHM. In return, it leaves your child to be shaped by whomever. SAHMs, be proud and know you are blessed! Especially since you are in a season and can enter the work force again once the children are in school full time, while others never could afford those cherished years at home with their children.

    • You’re right, mrsdh. It’s a gift that those of us who stay home can afford to do it. Feeling sorry for ourselves is such a middle class problem, right? I have to remind myself of that a lot. Thanks for sharing this with your friends.

  4. elissa97211

    Hey Micha! You said, “If I were to hire someone to care for my two children with the level of care and dedication and commitment I have, for a ten hours a day, seven days a week…” I would like to point out that it would be really hard for someone else to have that level of care and dedication and commitment to your kids. I nannied for a long time, as you know, and I loved many of the kids I nannied for, and sometimes I matched the level of care a mom would have, but not always. And as far as dedication and commitment–even when I loved them truly, deeply, they weren’t my kids, and I was going home, and eventually I wasn’t going to be their nanny anymore. I couldn’t let myself forget that because I was already going to be heartbroken, you know? Plus, you’re an amazing mom. Duh.

  5. I don’t blame you for needing to quantify the value of your work (mentally) in order to justify it to yourself. I just think it would be nice if we lived in a redeemed culture that didn’t require us to justify our existence in dollar amounts. *dreams*

    Good post.

  6. Fantastic post…oh to come home to sparkly kitchen and meals made…now there is a dream….i stayed home for quite a while with both my kids and vowed i wouldn’t work outside of the home….and now I do…staying home to me was much harder work….and more fulfilling i might add….even if i was in my pjs….

  7. Lauren

    great post. all parents, whatever their career choices (or lack-there-of; it boils my blood that some folks would be forced into a certain position because of economics), are working full-time at raising their children. It is so illuminating to calculate the monetary value of a stay at home parent. Researchers don’t often get this right (see http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2012/02/whos-minding-the-kids/ for a look at one flawed study) and society undervalues the caregiver role to a shameful degree. It is also essential that parents who work outside the home know they are still absolutely the primary influence in their kids’ lives. That has been proven again and again. If nothing else, I’m demonstrating to my sons (and yours!!) that women can be scientists and doctors and breadwinners, just as my dear friend who is home demonstrates to her children (and mine!!!) the immense value of homemaking and caregiving. Everyone wins!

  8. Thank you for this! My husband and I are expecting our first baby in July and I’ve been home for about a year now and very much struggling with guilt and finding the best use of my time. It’s hard not to compare yourself to other SAHM’s, especially when you don’t have the Mom part, yet. And one of my best friends is also expecting her first, but will need to go back to work, which is something that she has been struggling with (and she’s looking for a blog written by working moms to encourage her, but has had no luck). Anyways, thanks for being an encouragement to some complete strangers. =]

  9. Thanks for the reminder that this is a choice even when it doesn’t feel like it (health issues, financial, etc.) for me. I feel guilty b/c I am a SAHM who LOVES being with my child but hates being a stay at home mom. I missing working. I want to work. I sometimes wonder if God is trying to help me separate who I am from what I do as I’m not honestly sure I’d be the best work-away-from-home Mom b/c I associate what I do, can do, and produce with who I am so much so cleaning dishes and making dinner sometimes leave me feeling unaccomplished and unfulfilled and yet I LOVE her SO much and am so glad I get to hang out with her.

    • Jessica, I think so many people resonate with you. Too often we SAHMs pretend that it’s the most beautiful job of all time when inside we just want a break and we just want to feel passionately about work or do something that feels productive. I hear you. I’ve been in a long process of learning that I am not my job title. Maybe you should spend some time thinking about what does make you feel fulfilled or accomplished and pray through whether or not that’s healthy. Maybe that’d be a starting place for you to begin to determine if you should be working outside the home.

  10. As a mom who’s held down a job outside the home and also, later, been a SAHM I’m grateful for your gentle handling of both. Let’s be honest, being a mom is a big job no matter which way you do it. …And, yes, I miss wearing cute shoes! 😉

  11. Thank you for this post. I have struggled greatly with wondering if staying at home was a fall back for me, as I never really knew what I wanted to do with my life. Do I stay at home by default? The longer I stay at home, the more I realize, my influence is greater here than it could be anywhere else in this world. Kudos to my working mom counterparts. They are super human in my eyes.

    Love your blog!
    Shea ‘Sims’ Moses

  12. I’ve always hated the “Mommy Wars” – where nobody wins and everyone feels inferior, less-than. We all need grace. Long ago I learned this basic truth: Almost everyone is truly doing the best they can. And when I embraced that truth, I was so much better able to give everyone the grace to make their own decisions, regardless of what I thought (especially if they had the GALL to NOT ask me my opinion!)

    I stayed home for five years until my girls were almost 4 and 6. Ever since then I’ve gone back and forth between working in an office, and working in my home-office. I think I have a great situation now, working full time from home (now that my girls are almost 13 and 15). But one thing I know for sure: it’s challenging every single day. No matter how we do it – SAHM, WAHM, or whatever. We all need to support one another, not judge!

    And especially, I think we need to stop judging ourselves and give ourselves the grace we deserve!

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